Event - Spring and Summer Seasons at SeaLegs Wine Bar
With two Golden Foodie awards under their belt in a back-to-back victory, SeaLegs Wine Bar has reason for expanding their restaurant to welcome more people to their praised food created by Executive Chef Alexander Dale. A patio has been under works this season to allow for more to indulge in their Californian cuisine; though not finished at the time of our visit, we were happy to see each of the wooden stools for the outdoor area emblazoned charmingly with the names of wines. We visited to get a sense of what new items were on the Spring/Summer menu for SeaLegs, and it looked like the "fresh" is the theme of these offerings.
The atmosphere at SeaLegs is always admirable - owners Alicia Whitney and Lisa Nonemaker have managed to put together a space that most love to visit for its well-designed interior and large meeting areas. Every time that we've been in, we've seen parties or special events happening whether in their vast room open for reservations or on their centered long table. The nautical theme is accented by the walls of wine bottles enticing guests. Duc and I got tasters ourselves of the Levo Wines Carney Grenache Rosé, Santa Barbara ($20/72) and Claiborne & Churchhill Gewurztraminer, Central Coast ($15/54) to jump into the festivities that early evening.
The first dish from the Spring/Summer menu that wafted our way was the steaming hot Quinoa Fried Rice ($18 - blue crab, quinoa, carrots, spring onion, bean sprouts, and celery stir fry topped with sunny-side up egg), perfectly formed in a cylindrical shape that dared us to topple it. There was no easy way to eat the dish without felling the tower but not before trying to break a yolk to run down the sides. During our visit, the egg was not yielding to runniness - it cooked just a tad longer than it was supposed to but the egg was still good to have with the fried "rice." This substitution of quinoa for rice gave the dish more nuttiness and texture as the granules had better bite but we hankered for what rice in fried rice should feel like - separated grains instead of a mash of stuck-together quinoa. However, if you don't have a preference for that portion, this is an order that favors the crab lovers; it was nearly more crab than quinoa!
Their special that week was a Summer Salad consisting of pea sprouts, radish, carrots, asparagus, sunflower seeds, curly kale, and daikon, almost all of which were shaved for easier eating. If you are a fan of the raw vegetal taste that these rooty vegetables give off, this would be the salad for you but if you aren't, don't spend time on this. It is fresh, crunchy, and definitely raw.
Our two favorites of the visit were the entrees - their bowl of Mussels and Clams ($16 - P.E.I. mussels, littleneck clams, applewood smoked bacon, sauteed garlic, shallots, leeks, and herbs in a white wine broth served with toast points) and heaping plate of Chimichurri Hangar Steak Salad ($18 - 5 oz Hangar steak marinated in chimichurri with quinoa, arugula, grilled corn, roasted red bell peppers, pickled onions, grape tomatoes, and avocado tossed in a roasted garlic vinaigrette). For a place in Huntington Beach which names and decorates itself with oceanic elements, the seafood is the strongest player on the menu so far. Years ago, I used to think that I did not like shellfish but then I realized I just hadn't liked how it had been prepared before. SeaLegs has shellfish that can change your mind.
The mussels and clams were fairly numerous considering the price but certainly not a dish that could make one person full. Swimming in a flavorful broth, the shellfish were privy to the smokiness of bacon, savoriness of garlic, and influence of herbs. The toast points that accompanied the dish were necessary to sop up all of the magic. I especially enjoyed how clean and fresh the mussels and clams were, a trait you can see in its flesh and taste in its texture. Not too salty nor bland, the Mussels and Clams are an order I would recommend.
As for the steak salad, it may not have come out in a very presentable manner considering the multiple elements on the plate but it was presentable on the palate. The steak could have benefited from being sliced thinner but overall, its rareness was a good fit for the cold salad. I enjoyed the chimichurri on the salad which could easily have been the only dressing for the rest of the greens. Roasted red bell peppers were a good touch, lending sweetness and smokiness to the plate, and the grilled corn gave fun pops of texture.
Other items new for the spring/summer seasons that we didn't try included the Gorgonzola Ribeye, Scottish Salmon, and Duck Confit Cheesy Fingerling Potatoes.
If I could only guarantee for you all that the dessert we had would be there when you next came in. SeaLegs has a rotating list of different bread puddings for their desserts, and we happeend to get their Framboise Bread Pudding which came beautifully with an orange tarragon chantilly cream. Talk about wow-ing. Dense and moist, this bread pudding did not sit heavily in our stomachs because of how much raspberry was involved and the levity in flavor of an orange cream. If all of their bread puddings are this well executed, you are in for a treat because I thoroughly enjoyed the Framboise version. Yet another dish that jumps into the spring/summer menu motif that we experienced of being fresh and light. I wonder what the autumnal/wintry menu will bring then.
By the way, once that patio aforementioned is finished, you can join them at sunset every night for a $5 glass of Rosé in a toast to the day's end so keep your ears open for when it finally opens!
Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.